You associate running with the eighth grade, when your sadistic gym teacher kept you running till you felt like you were about to collapse. You’re not alone—lots of people have bad memories and disappointing experiences with running.
You’ve been told that running is one of the very best things you can do for your body, and for good reason: running helps with weight loss, strengthens joints, and even improves your mental health. But how do you overcome your fears and dislike of running to become an active, happy runner?
Learn to Love Running
Below, we’ve got 11 tips to help you feel pumped about strapping on your shoes and going for a run. Trust us—these tricks work!
Tip #1: Start with the End in Mind
When you begin running, do it for a reason. Do you want to lose 20 pounds? Do you have a goal to run a marathon within a certain time? The vision of what running can help you achieve will keep you motivated when you begin.
Tip #2: Set Goals
Goals help you achieve your vision. Don’t compare yourself to other, more experienced runners—the “I want to run a marathon by next Tuesday” goal won’t get you very far.
Instead, set goals that work for you and help you achieve your final, long-term goal. For a beginning runner, a great first goal might be something like, “walk for 20 minutes, and jog for 30 seconds every 3 minutes.”
Tip #3: Slow Down
Don’t feel bad if you can’t run a 6-minute mile at first—or even a 13-minute mile. One of the great things about running is that you only compete with yourself. Focus on your goals and your progress. At first, run at a speed that would allow you to still carry on a conversation with someone. Speed will come as you continue to practice and meet your initial goals.
Tip #4: Ask a Friend
A lot of beginning runners find that they can achieve more with someone by their side. Choose a friend who you enjoy talking to. This person will also encourage you to stretch yourself.
When you run with a friend can keep you from feeling bored or giving up. Don’t worry if your friend is faster or fitter than you—real friends want you to be healthy, not embarrassed.
Tip #5: Get an Accountability Buddy
An accountability buddy is someone you report to when you run—and when you don’t. Your buddy might be your spouse, your running partner, or a friend.
When someone holds you accountable for your running, you don’t just have to live up to your own expectations; you have to live up to someone else’s expectations for you as well.
Tip #6: Take Care of Yourself
Running provides fantastic exercise, but it won’t impact your overall health if you eat junk food and don’t get enough sleep. If you want running to have optimal effects—more energy, a slimmer body, stronger joints, more endurance—you’ve got to take care of your body.
Tip #7: Don’t Get Bored
Many people feel bored when they first start running. So mix things up and keep yourself entertained.
Listen to fun, fast music or to an audiobook. Take a different route. Play a game like “20 Questions” with a friend. End your run at a place you love—even if it’s an ice cream shop every once in a while. Run at different times of the day. The variety in your routine will break up the monotony and keep you moving forward.
Tip #8: Sign Up for a Race
Find a race for a cause you care about it and begin training. And don’t forget to pay the entrance fee! With money on the line, you’ll have plenty of motivation to train. When you start to run, don’t feel pressure to run a marathon any time soon. Instead, sign up for a 5K or a lighthearted race like a colorful fun run.
Tip #9: Schedule
You have a busy schedule, and you can easily get to the end of the day and realize you haven’t had time to exercise. Make your running time a priority and put it on your agenda. A reminder from your smart phone or a half-hour blocked out on your work schedule will help you to keep running a priority, even when life gets busy.
Tip #10: Write It Down
Many runners keep track of their progress, including their distance and time gains. You may find a lot of motivation and fulfillment in keeping a running journal. But if keeping track of statistics just stresses you out, there’s another great way to track your progress: your blog, Twitter, and Instagram!
Sharing your running experience won’t just help you—it will also help other beginning runners who are looking for support and encouragement.
Tip #11: Be Proud of Yourself
Running can feel really, really hard, especially when you are just beginning. Don’t give up! Be proud of yourself for working hard and getting out of the house. Your efforts to improve your health, lose weight, and get in shape make a difference.
And even though running is hard, you’ll feel better about yourself and have more energy as you gain strength and endurance. You have every reason to feel proud.